Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vox Populi: The Grocery Store

They let us go early today. And so, I went to the grocery store. Everybody in the People's Republic of Hillcrest must have had the same idea as the joint was backed.

I came up behind a woman in the frozen bread section.

" I see you bake bread the same way I do," I said.

" Oh yeah," she replied. " Who has time to bake?'

I reached over her head to get my selection of biscuits.

"Do you see the individual cinnamon rolls?" she asked. " I don't see them. They used to be around here somewhere."

" I don't see 'em.'

" Well hell. There's only one thing to do then."

" What's that?"

" Switch to pop-up," she said swinging her cart around.

" That's what all us real cooks would do."

"Damn straight! Happy New Year!"

And Happy New Year to you as well.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

AT&T Agonistes

TMFW is out today returning Christmas to Whoville and so doesn't have time to post his Sunday freeling this week, and was nice enough to ask me to pinch hit.

Which I almost wasn't able to do. What follows is the unexpurgated transcript of my day thus far. Sorry it's tardy.

Scene 1 (via AT&T text message)

TMFW: (Insert protracted rant about Wally, redacted for brevity's sake.)

Me: Internet’s down at the house, and I can’t seem to pick up photos on my phone.

TMFW: Your voice has been stilled.

Me: I am sure this will cause great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

TMFW: I sent a picture to your e-mail.

Me: (Patiently) I saw. Hence my text re not being able to look at it on my phone.

TMFW: That is strange.

(Break during which I reboot my computer, my router, and my DSL modem several times, then drive to town to buy the papers so I will have something to read when put on hold after calling the AT&T tech support line).

TMFW: Call tech support. That should be quick and helpful.

Me: My Urdu skills are not strong.

TMFW: Perhaps you should resort to prayer.

Me: Equally effective.

TMFW: Hence my suggestion.

(Break during which I reboot all computer-related devices in my home once again.)

TMFW: 75 yesterday. 35 today.

Me: 65 here.

TMFW: At least the sun is shining.

Me: No, it isn’t, you asshole.

Scene 2 (via AT&T land line)

Me: (Dials (877) 737-2478)

AT&T: Hello! And welcome to the new AT&T! You have reached the AT&T Residential Repair Line! This call may be monitored or recorded for quality control purposes! Para espaƱol mache siete. AT&T’s new voice-activated help line allows you to speak most of your responses! Are you calling about a residential phone line?


If you are calling about AT&T high speed internet DSL accens, the answer is “no.”

Me: No.

AT&T: Okay! I’m going to ask you a few questions to find out what your problem is. If you are calling about your AT&T high-speed Internet access, speak, or say, “AT&T high-speed Internet access.” If you …

Me: AT&T high speed Internet access.

AT&T: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Could you repeat it please?

Me: AT&T high-speed Internet access.

AT&T: I’m sorry, I still didn’t get that.

Me: AT&T high-speed Internet access.

AT&T: I’m sorry, I still didn’t get that.

Me: AT&T high-speed Internet access!

AT&T: I’m sorry, I still didn’t get that.

Me: AT&T high-speed Internet access!!!!!

AT&T: I’m sorry, I still didn’t get that.


AT&T: I’m sorry, I still didn’t get that.


AT&T: Okay! I got “my God-damned Internet is out.” Is that right?

Me: Yes.

AT&T: Please speak, or say, the phone number associated with the AT&T high-speed Internet account you’re calling about.

Me: 919-967-1405.

AT&T: Okay. I heard 919-967-1404. Is that right?

Me: No.

AT&T: Please speak, or say, the phone number associated with the AT&T high-speed Internet account you’re calling about.

Me: 919-967-1405.

AT&T: Okay. I heard 919-967-1404. Is that right?

Me: NO!

AT&T: Please speak, or say, the phone number associated with the AT&T high-speed Internet account you’re calling about.

Me: 919-967-1405. Can I speak to a real person please?

AT&T: No you may not speak to a real person. Please speak, or say the number associated with the AT&T high-speed Internet account you’re calling about.

Me: 919-967-1405, for the love of God.

AT&T: Okay. I got 919-967-1405. Is that right?

Me: YES!!!!

AT&T: Okay. I’m going to ask a few questions about your problem. But first, you should know that most common Internet problems can be fixed by unplugging your complimentary AT&T DSL modem from its power source. We recommend that you take this step now, and will pause a moment to allow you to do so.


Have you disconnected your modem from the power source?

Me: No.

AT&T: AT&T highly recommends you do so. Please do so now. (Pause). Have you taken this important step?

Me: Okay, yes.

AT&T: And did this simple step, so often overlooked by AT&T customers, fix your problem, so that you now realize you didn’t have to bother us on a weekend?

Me: No. I had tried that five times before I called the help line.

AT&T: There’s no need to get snippy, sir.

Me: Well, I did.

AT&T: Okay! Please speak, or say, a few sentences to briefly describe the nature of the problem that prompted you to bother us on a Sunday.

Me: I have no DSL signal.

AT&T: Okay. I heard “wish to purchase new equipment.” Please wait while I connect you to the proper person.

Me: NO!

(Lengthy pause, followed by a rude electronic noise, after which line appears to go dead)

AT&T: If you’d like to place a call, please hang up and dial again. (Beep!) If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and dial again. (Beep!) If you’d like to…

Scene 3 (via AT&T text message)

TMFW: The sun is shining here (Attaches picture to text message so as to underscore gloating, smug nature of text message).

Me: I would have preferred the traditional Peshto speaker to the automatic voice-activated system that just hung up on me.

TMFW: No wonder you are unusually dyspeptic this morning.

Scene 4 (via AT&T land line)

(Repeat Scene 2, through “I have no DSL signal, followed by—)

AT&T: Okay! This is your automated AT&T voice-activated problem-solver again. Which allows you, the AT&T customer, the convenience of speaking, or saying, your responses! Please speak or say the type of complimentary modem AT&T provided you free of charge when you signed up with AT&T’s high speed DSL Internet access..

Me: Motorola.

AT&T: I didn’t get that. The most popular modem types are 2-Wire, Belkin, and Cicso. Which of these do you have?

Me: Motorola!

AT&T: Could you repeat that?


AT&T (automatic systems stress detectors kicking in) Please wait while we connect you to our AT&T residential customer technical support and service desk!

(Lengthy pause).

Hello! All of our customer support representatives are busy assisting other customers! We will be with you in a few minutes!

(Pause during which I hear part of “An American in Paris” 536 times and do the entire New York Times Sunday crossword).

AT&T: Hawo! May I ask who I am speaking to, pwease?

Me: Don McCormick. Is this a live person?

AT&T: Hawo, Don! I am a wive person, yes! My name is Shiewathamansdkzm! It is my pwivewege to be assisting you today! Could you pwease confiwm the phone number you’re calling fwom, Don?

Me: 919-967-1405.

AT&T: Wets stawt by finding out what you’we pwobwem is! What is it you’we cawing about, Don?

Me: I have no DSL signal.

AT&T: Okay! Hewe at AT&T we find that most pwobwems are caused by a few simple customer ewwows we’we sure you haven’t twied to solve youwsewf, Don. Can you check to make sure the modem is pwugged in, Don?

Me: Yes, of course.

AT&T: The fiwst thing I want you to twy is unplugging it for a few seconds, Don. Do you know how to do that, Don?

Me: Yes, of course. I did so four or five times before I called you, and have done it twice since.

AT&T: You pwobabwy didn’t do it cowectwy. Pwease disconnect the modem fwom its powew souwce, Don, and wait five seconds befowe pwugging it in again.

Me: Done.

AT&T: And you have DSL signaw again, don’t you, Don?

Me: No, of course not.

AT&T: What additional phones or fax machines have you added to youw househowd since the last time youw AT&T high-speed Internet access worked. Don?

Me: None.

AT&T: (Lengthy question in Tagalog, of which the only word I recognize is “Don.”)

Me: Excuse me?

AT&T: I’m sowwy, Don. It wooks wike we need to have a twained AT&T customew sewvice technician come make sure thewe’s no pwobwem with youw lines. Then, Don, we can wesume figuwing out how this is aww youw fauwt. It looks like the earliest one of our trained AT&T customew suppowt technicians can pay you a sewvice call is between eight a.m and eweven a.m. on Decembew 28. Is that a convenient time for you, Don?

Me: Today is December 28.

AT&T: Is that a convenient time, then, Don?

Me: It’s already 11:30.

AT&T: So is that a convenient time, then, Don?

Me: But the time has already come and gone.

AT&T: So is that a convenient time for you, Don?

Me: No, I’m sorry. It’s not. I can’t be here then. Is there another time?

AT&T: Hewe at AT&T we’we sorry our eawliest avaiwabwe appointment was not convenient for you, Don. We were hoping to wesowve this pwobwm quickwy. Our next available appointment is March 22, 2009 between eight a.m. and six p.m., Don. Is that a mowe convenient time for you, Don?

Me: Did you say March 22?

AT&T: Yes, Don.

Me: You don’t have anything open between now and Spring?

AT&T: We have some appointments in the aftewnoon of Decembew 28, Don, but you have aweady decwined Decembew 28 as inconvenient for you, regardless of how convenient it would be for AT&T.

Me: No, I didn’t. Just the ones in the morning that have already come and gone.

AT&T: So you want to change youw mind and accept the previously offewed appointment, then, Don?

Me: Yes. As long as it’s in the afternoon

AT&T: Okay! A twained AT&T customew sewvice technician will be thewe beween one and nine p.m. on Sunday, December 28, Don. Pwease be pwesent untiw the AT&T customer sewvice technician shows up to assist AT&T in diagnosing how this pwobwem is aww youw fault, Don. Youw AT&T appointment identification number is 1FD999876-6839405-aaCF0d/367830FDEE9812319767-33341299W. Please be suwe to wefew to this numbew if you have any questions, Don, and tell them you were hewped by Shiewathamansdkzm. Have a nice day!

Me: Wait. What number do I call if I have questions?

AT&T: The same sewvice number you called to stawt this caw, Don. 888-321-2375.

Me: That’s not the number I called.

AT&T: Yes it is. Have a gweat day, Don.

Scene 5 (via AT&T cell phone)

Most Beautiful Woman in the World: Hello?

Me: Good morning, sweetheart.

MBITW: Oh, hello.

Me: I know we’re planning to finish work on your attic today, but my Internet is down, and I need to wait for a technician to turn up. The next appointment is in March.

MBITW: Well, that’s okay. It’s surprising they were able to get to it so quickly.

Me: Agreed. So I’ll call you as soon as they’re gone.

Scene 6 (via AT&T text message)

TMFW: How’s it coming there, Marconi?

Me: The sun has finally come out. AT&T claims to be sending someone over.

TMFW: The prayers of a good man availeth much.

Scene 7 (via AT&T land line)

Me: Hello.

AT&T: (Heavily accented North Carolinian speech). Hey. This is Jerry with AT&T. I’m on my way, but it’s going to take me a while to get there. My last call was over to Apex. Maybe an hour from there. I don’t know why they book ‘em like that. What kind of modem you got?

Me: Motorola.

AT&T: Little silver job?

Me: Yep.

AT&T: What do the lights say?

Me: “Power” and “Ethernet” both green, everything else dark.

AT&T: Aw, hell. You’re modem’s fried. I’ll bring you a new one. See ya in a few.

Scene 7 (face to face)

AT&T: Hey.

Me: Hey.

AT&T: Where’s your modem?

Me: Right here.

AT&T: You know your password?

Me: No, of course not.

AT&T: (Lengthy discourse of technical language no more comprehensible than Tagalog but more sociably delivered.)

(Pause of about three minutes).

AT&T: Okay, man. You’re good to go.

And thus did the time of trials pass.

I’m now worried that I’m going to get one of those customer satisfaction survey forms in which they ask me to rate my AT&T experience. Face to face, perfect. Over the phone, which, if you think about it, ought to be AT&T’s forte, zero out of ten.

Happy new year.

Further the deponent sayeth not.

How To Write Good

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's inimitable Wally Hall, in yet another sports column about, well, nothing really, takes us on a trip down Memory Lane as he recounts his various experiences going to bowl games over the years. Along the way he uncorks this eye-rubber about his trip to the 1981 Gator Bowl:

" We were deciding whether to go (on a complementary cruise) when they delayed the trip by two hours, so we took off to see the oldest continuous city in the United States, St. Augustine, which is a neat little place."

See the words inside the parenthesis? That was put there by me. That's called editing and does not exist in any of Wally's stuff. Of course if I were his editor this is how the story would look:

" We had the opportunity to go on a cruise but opted instead to go visit St. Augustine. The oldest city in the United States turned out to be a neat little place."

Then again, if I were Wally's editor I would harbor thoughts of suicide.

Back to the tangle of words called today's column. Our hero and his compadres did eventually take that boat ride and just reading between the lines here consumed many adult beverages while on board in order to liven up the limo ride home:

" Five times the driver asked us where we were staying, and five times he was given the name of a different hotel (it was the first time in a limo too), only to tell him when we arrived that, no that wasn't it.

Finally after two hours of our singing, he parked and got out of the car and told us we were on our own.

Someone-Clay, I think-showed him the key that had Sheraton on it, and he did drop us back at our hotel."

Where to start? Let's start with the obvious. If I were the editor, my question would be " the point of this goddamned waste of gigabytes would be what exactly?" And you will note that I use quotation marks. Wally had two opportunities in the cited example of his deathless prose to do likewise. And what about the erratic use of punctuation?

"Someone-Clay, I think-" I mean, really.

My friend J is a former English teacher turned Prosecutor. She yells at Georgia football players( she is from Georgia which carries its own special subset of difficulties which is neither here nor there) when they dangle participles during interviews on TV. J has a formidable persona and she carries a badge. If Walter Hussman would give her a week with Wally she would have him halfway straightened out. Which would be an immense improvement. A week of getting his knuckles rapped and his copy red pencilled by her would get Wally up to at least 7th grade competency.

Or we can turn him over to my nephew Henry who is actually in the 7th grade. He has no interest in sports. But in the unlikely event Henry ever decided to write a column about how he showed his ass while on a business trip it would at least be readable.

The new year dawns. Wally's columns are cries for help.

I can dream can't I?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

They Wouldn't Print It If It Wasn't True

The headline in today's sports page for the story about the execrable 0-15 Detroit Lions read: "Odds Favor Lions Losing."

Strangely enough, it was followed by a story about how humans are carbon based and oxygen dependant.

This puckish observation will be my only stab at blogging this weekend which I know represents a blow to western literature.

I need a break. Will be back soon. Perhaps I can talk Polycarp into filling the void tomorrow.

Peace Out.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shameless Plug Just In Time For Christmas

KUAR's Tales from the South will air its Holiday Show Christmas night at 7 pm CST. I will be reading a Christmas story along with two other local writer types. You can tune in at 89.1 on the FM dial here in Little Rock or you can hear the broadcast over the Internet at that time by going to and clicking on "Listen Live."

If you have something better to do that night, and I can't imagine that you won't, you can go to and access the archives to listen at a later date. As PM writes during book signings, I hope you find something you like.

Happy Holidays, everybody!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Sunday Feeling

Christmas has come early to Detroit and boy, are my conservative friends, what few I have, flummoxed. It shocked them enough when they found out the new Head Teller at the banking system was a guy named Uncle Sam. Now this.

As Paul Simon once said, these are the days of miracle and wonder. A black man with a Muslim name is about to take the oath of office. And George Delano Bush is propping up Detroit. It's enough to make a person believe in Christmas.

Whoa. Did I just write that? I need to get a grip.

I just got back from West Little Rock where I foolishly went to finish up my shopping. As I sat there in the parking lot that was West Markham Street I made a mental note of all the things I hate about the Christmas season. Here are just a few.

Christmas Carols-As Christopher Hitchens has pointed out in Slate Magazine, being out in public this time of year is like unto living in a totalitarian state. Nowhere are you safe from Christmas music. Not only is most of it insipid ("Jingle Bells" largely consists of the same 3 notes), most of it is preposterous as a matter of history. It is highly unlikely that snow was falling, snow on snow, in Bethlehem of Judea on the night of Christ's birth, if indeed he was born there in the winter. It is a damn certainty that were no little girls with European names like Jeanette or Isabella running around with torches during the Nativity. And do you really think any young mother, no matter how tolerant and kind, would let some idiot with a snare drum anywhere near a baby?

The Mall- My nephew Henry has, unfortunately in my view given my sorry history with the subject, discovered girls. I was told he wanted cologne. This forced me to go to the mall. Naturally, since I do not read the Christmas ads, the sheer weight and volume of which surely require massive clear cutting to produce all of the paper, I did not know that last Saturday was " picture with Santa" day. Naturally, there was a line approximately 30 yards deep of anxious parents with understandably fidgety children waiting in line to pay exorbitant prices for a bad photograph of their kid with some fat guy in a costume.

After fighting my way through that, I made my purchase only to find out that my sister-in-law had already gotten it for him. This necessitated another frigging trip to the mall to make the return. On my way to the department store I was approached by a young girl peddling some seasonal junk in one of the many kiosks that have sprung up there since October.

" Excuse me Sir? May I ask you a question?"

"Absolutely not."

" You sure?"

" More certain than anything in my life. Good day."

So, Henry you are getting your cologne. It was because of you I had to go to the mall twice. I hate to spoil the surprise but that's what you get for reading this. Merry Christmas.

The Salvation Army- My blood pressure rises when I hear the distant bell as I get out of my car. Look, the milk of human kindness flows in my veins. I donate lots of money to charity. I donate to the Salvation Army for Chrissakes. But I resent being shook down each and every time I seek access to or egress from the grocery store.

Branson-The only reason this town is not the wide place in the road it would otherwise be is because numerous naive and gullible white people are mysteriously drawn to its bad shows, lame music and stultifying light displays every Christmas. Jim Bakker is back in business selling ersatz religion and real estate just outside of town. I think that's perfect.

Andy Williams and Bobby Vinton- See above.

I could go on and on. Office Christmas parties. Business failures. People going into ruinous debt to buy presents. Asshole neighbors with light displays that would cause the Mayor of Branson to blush. TV spots by car dealers that invoke the name of Jesus. Idiotic Presidential Proclamations.

Fruit Cake.

But let me be the first to congratulate the "Big Three" automakers on their early Christmas present from our outgoing President who is channeling his inner Keynes as he stumbles off into the judgment of history.

I never thought I would see such a thing. It's a wonderful life. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Vox Populi: The Bartender

I popped into a favorite establishment to have a drink the other night. I like to hang out over there. The food is good and the proprietor is nice. And nobody knows me over there. It's great.

There is usually a band playing over there on Fridays and Saturdays. It is supposed to be background music. These guys evidently were a little too loud because they had been asked to tone it down to no avail.

At the break, one of the guys in the band came up to the bar to get a drink.

" You guys need to turn it down," the bartender said.

" Look, why don't you worry about tending bar? I'll worry about the music."

" I see," said the barkeep as he reached beneath him. " Why don't I just go ahead and hit you in the fuckin' mouth with this bottle of vodka?"

The musician looked over at me. I nibbled on my olive and shrugged.

They turned it down.

The bartender looked over at me and smiled.


"Don't mind if I do, son."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hotty Totty

Ole Miss's Andy Kennedy was arrested, along with the Director of Basketball Operations, for allegedly getting into an altercation with a cab driver in Cincinnati last night where the Rebels are scheduled to lose to Louisville tonight. Kennedy is alleged to have used "ethnic slurs" during the altercation.

Recent history shows that basketball coaches tend to get into trouble when they have too much time on their hands. Kennedy should know this better than anybody. He became the head coach at Cincinnati when Bob Huggins was fired after getting drunk and wrecking a car on a recruiting trip. Larry Eustachy got cashiered at Iowa State after unseemly photographs of him drinking with college girls popped up on the Internet.

Both Huggy and Eustachy went the AA route and are back in the game at other places. If there is anything to these allegations you can expect Kennedy to follow suit and cop to "having a problem" which will require him to go away for awhile. But then again, I would drink heavily if I were the basketball coach at Ole Miss.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, known locally as the "Clarion-Liar" is all over it. Hit the link.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Carols As Background Music For Totalitarianism: Christopher Hitchens Declares War On Christmas

"God, I hate Christmas music."

The words just flew out of my mouth as Jenny and I were sliding into our booth at a popular eatery down by the river.

I don't even remember what Muzak infected jingle was befouling my airspace.

"Well, for somebody that hates Christmas music you sure have done a ton of it in your day," she replied.

Now there's a woman for you. If a woman knows you as well as Jenny knows me, they delight in taking a perfectly good inflammatory remark, generally leavened by such cuss words as are appropriate to the occasion, and turning it around it in a misguided attempt to provide some perspective. Or, as I suspect in the case of my dear Jenny, they do it in an attempt to provoke further discomfort.

I refused to take the bait.

" We are heartily sorry for these our misdoings," I muttered, remembering the words of the old Methodist communion liturgy.

As many of you know, I really have very little use for Christmas. And usually, long about this time, I have written my usual anti-Christmas screed. I may not have to do it as my man Christopher Hitchens went thermonuclear on the subject yesterday in Slate magazine. Hitchens, who for his bomb throwing prose style is surprisingly soft spoken and unfailingly polite in person, likens the ubiquity of holiday music to be akin to the pervasive iconography of a totalitarian state where escape from the Dear Leader is impossible.

I think that's a little over the top. I believe that a considerable number of misguided souls actually like Christmas music, even when you consider that " The Little Drummer Boy' and the even more odious "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" are part of the canon. Muzak does not make money by being stupid. So it plays music that the general public wants to hear, soreheads like me and Hitch notwithstanding. Bidness is bidness. Simple as that.

I still have an "I hate Christmas" post coming. But if I don't get around to it this season Hitchens' rant will do nicely.

Until then, have a holly jolly Christmas. Please do.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Popular Science

While cooling my jets waiting on the doctor to deign to call me back this afternoon, I thumbed idly through a copy of Popular Science magazine. Seeing as how I had not looked at a PS in years and years, I had forgotten that it is a treasure trove of hooey that is every bit the equal of Psychology Today or any golf magazine.

I learned that a man invented a flashlight that can illuminate an object 4 miles away. There were plans on how you could build your own instant charge electric screwdriver. Until today I didn't know germs could clean your teeth. But my personal favorite was the program someone designed that can allow you to play computer games on the viewfinder of your high-dollar Canon digital camera.

What struck me was how nobody actually needs this stuff. And I am certain that a portion of the PS readership, probably the same portion that thinks this stuff is interesting and useful, are the bane of the Patent Office which they most assuredly pester nonstop with applications for patents for pneumatic cheese graters, bulletproof paint and practical applications for the unified field theory.

I picture these guys sitting around in the garage, chain smoking and staring into space until it hits them.

"That's it!"

And some Elvis Costello look alike will set about drawing up plans for a perpetual energy device.

These guys would be better off blogging. It is every bit as useless but the rejection factor isn't there.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Sunday Feeling

I write this day in defense of the "gret stet" of Louisiana in light of the recent revelations that Rod Blegojevich, the future ex-Governor of Illinois, was purblindly stupid enough to attempt to parlay the vacant Senate seat of President-Elect Obama into campaign contributions and/or jobs for he and his wife.

Now, Louisiana is widely regarded as being rife with corruption. Indeed, a member of the New Orleans City Council is busting rocks after getting caught taking bribes after running a campaign based on "honesty and integrity." Louisiana has had 2 Governors serve time. Edwin Edwards is currently a guest of the Federal Bureau of Penitentiaries after being convicted, along with his son, of influence peddling involving licenses for casinos and a hospital. The freshly defeated Congressman from New Orleans, William Jefferson, is facing federal charges in Washington. As part of the investigation of him, the FBI found $400,000 in a freezer at his home. You can look at the colorful history of Louisiana with the Longs, Huey and Uncle Earl, Ray Nagin, and the pious Christian Senator who is alleged to have rented him some female companionship from time to time and come to the not unreasonable conclusion that it is a basket case.

But really, Louisiana is not appreciably more corrupt than either Mississippi or Alabama. It's just that neither Mississippi nor Alabama are as flamboyant about it. And none of those states can hold a candle to Illinois and Chicago when it comes to out and out bare-knuckled brazen corruption in the political system.

4 Illinois Governors have done time. A whole raft of State Court judges got sent up the river 4 or 5 years ago. Every now and again an alderman will find himself in the cross hairs of the Feds. My personal favorite, at least up until now, was Otto Kerner, who was indicted for bribery when, while Governor, he took some stock from a horse track owner in exchange for adding an extra lane to a highway to accommodate her race track.

The scheme came to light when the race track owner deducted the bribe as a business expense on her taxes as a cost of doing business in Illinois. Naturally, by the time he got indicted Kerner was sitting as a Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. This caused no small amount of trouble for the United States Supreme Court which had to find a District Judge to sit by designation for his trial as well as a whole appellate tribunal to hear the inevitable appeal of his conviction. For the year or so that he was being prosecuted, Kerner took a leave of absence from the bench. This was no biggee for him, seeing as how he had life tenure as a Federal Judge, which assured him a steady paycheck.

However, the attempt by Governor Blagojevich to shake down various applicants for Obama's Senate seat has rightly been described by the Chicago Tribune as a "new low" for a state that thought it had seen it all. I can understand Blago wanting his palm greased. He's a Chicago politician. And let's forget for the moment that he foolishly aired out his plans to nominate someone for the vacant post only if his extortionate demands were met on numerous phones tapped by the FBI which was already taking a look at him. What I really, really don't understand is how he possibly thought he could get away with this scheme. I mean, I presume he hit on every person that contacted him.

He didn't think that the unsuccessful supplicant for the seat-said seat having been vacated by the first black President-Elect in the nation's history- wouldn't be pissed off and wouldn't snitch him off? I mean, granted he doesn't look like the brightest guy in the world. But c'mon. Chicago lawyer and writer Scott Turow said something along the lines of "If I wrote this story, no one would buy it. It's unbelievable."

What Rod Blagojevich did was unbelievable. And that's why when if comes to corruption, Louisiana is relatively pristine and virginal by comparison. It may be crooked. But it is believable.

I only regret that Nelson Algren, Mike Royko and Studs Turkel are not alive to see this, the motherlode.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vox Populi: My Brother- Dave Of The Ozarks

Dave: Just because they are in hospice doesn't mean they are gonna die soon. They can last forever.

Me: Yeah, I know.

Dave: Judy's Dad lasted longer than we thought he would and Helen is still hangin' even though she has Alzheimer's and can't get up out of a chair. No. I have a lot of experience with hospice up here.

Me: Well, this doesn't strike me as a particularly good sign.

Dave: No. But you never know. Helen is still hangin' in there.

Me: Yeah.

Dave: You know what hospice does up here in Greene County, Missouri?

Me: Ummmmm, no. What is hospice doing up there?

Dave: They send a harpist over to these folks house.

Me: A harpist.

Dave: Yessir.

Me: To do what?

Dave: You know, to play the harp.

Me: How dreadful. What? Y'all couldn't find an accordion player instead?

Dave: These old folks love it.

Me: I have never met a harp player who wasn't completely insane.

Dave: Really.

Me: Really. They are either really intense guys or Isadora Duncan types with long hair and silk scarves. I actually know 3 card carrying straight organists. I know no sane harpists.

Dave: Maybe so. But old folks like 'em.

Me: If I ever need hospice care?

Dave: No harps?

Me: No.

Dave: Not even if she's really hot?

Me: Never met one of those either.

Dave: I'm making a note.

Me: Thank you. I don't ask for much.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Sunday Feeling

Like everybody else, I am literally stunned by all of bailouts going on right now in America. No, I'm not talking about the billions the government is lending to the banking and automotive industry. I'm talking about all the money being thrown at college football coaches nowadays FOR NOT COACHING. The SEC alone this year is littered with the corpses of coaches who were fired and/or chose to quit rather than make changes to their staff. Phil Fulmer was fired at Tennessee, Sylvester Croom resigned at snake bit Mississippi State and Tommy Tuberville quit at Auburn.

The Tuberville situation is something of a stumper. Sure they went 5-7 this year and got walloped by blood enemy Alabama. But Tuberville had won 6 straight prior to this year's debacle. And even though the Birmingham News reported that Tuberville's wife wanted him out of the business and the Athletic Director swears he asked him to reconsider, it sounds like there was a gun at his head.

Which is unfair. They went undefeated 3 or 4 years ago. This year was the first losing record since his first season at the Loveliest Village On The Plains or whatever the hell they call it. Besides, like I said earlier, they have won 6 straight over the hated Crimson Tide, which is really all those folks care about anyway. And not that anyone cares, he graduated his players and you never really heard about them getting into any trouble. Unlike, say, a Penn State or a Virginia Tech. Or Florida State in its heyday.

Expectations of SEC fans everywhere but Vanderbilt are completely insane. Mississippi State is not likely to find a better fit for a perennially lousy program. They certainly will not hire a better man. Tennessee quickly inserted Lane Kiffen into the Chair of Football up there. Kiffen just got fired by Oakland's Lunatic-in-Residence Al Davis after a year and a half. And Auburn? I don't know what Auburn is going to do.

Which leads me to the following question: Why on earth does Charlie Weis still have a job? The Irish have done nothing but stink on ice since two winning seasons with players recruited by Tyrone Willingham who the Irish shamefully let go in the middle of his contract. Notre Dame did manage to eke out a winning record. But they also somehow lost to a 2-8 Syracuse team and got drilled by 30 against USC.

Weis, who by all accounts, has managed to piss off almost everybody involved with Notre Dame athletics, arrived at South Bend from the New England Patriots modestly promising that the Irish would have "a decided schematic advantage" by the fact of his mere presence. Somebody must not have told that to opposing Defensive Coordinators. Notre Dame was 99th in rushing yards per game in Division I and 69th in passing efficiency. Some decided advantage.

Indeed, Slate magazine re-ran a piece they did last year by Jonathan Chait in which he described Weis as the worst football coach in the universe. As you can see, from Chait's article, last year was even worse. And it's not like Notre Dame plays anybody. This year they only played 4 teams with winning records.

Two years ago, the Notre Dame brass hit the panic button when rumors abounded about Weis's impending return to the NFL. They signed him to a 10 YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION. But that can't be the only reason they are keeping him around. Notre Dame's boosters have more money than God. Buying Weis out wouldn't break those guys. And they are easily as crazy as anybody in the SEC. They jettisoned a truly decent guy in Willingham. Why are they putting up with an asshole like Weis who has put the program in the dumper?

Not that I much care. I have no use for Notre Dame. I figure that they deserve all of this misery and then some. And I weep not for Tuberville who will be paid 5.1 million to work on his short game.

But I don't understand how Charlie Weis has a job and Tommy Tuberville does not.